About a year ago, I started noticing these strange trash sculptures on random telephone poles in the Fishtown and Kensington neighborhoods of Philadelphia. I photographed this one in July, 2008:
By total chance, riding my bike down 2nd Street, I encountered the person responsible for these strange and whimsical creations as he stood on the corner, artfully arranging and weaving bits of detritus and debris around a telephone pole in the midday sun.
I approached him and we shook hands. I told him I really enjoyed the things he made. It became apparent that he had no vocal capabilities. He didn't seem at all bothered by my presence, so I stood beside him and watched him work for awhile, trying to assess the intention of this individual. His appearance was a bit ragged, his clothing piecemeal, but by no means did he seem homeless. And there was an awareness and lucidity there that made it hard to pin him as mentally ill.
I imagined he was a relatively capable individual throughout most of his life, until the inability to speak affected him profoundly and led to a slow withdrawal into isolation. I got out my camera and asked if I could make some photographs. He came over and patted me on the shoulder, then went back to working.